My 6 year old daughter, Alison was just named “Student of the Week” for her school. When asked how she earned the award, she told her grandpa it was for “being kind and stuff.” We all laughed. This is how a six year old sees it. In fact, her teacher wrote an amazing description of the way she is in school and she earned it for a number of admirable reasons.
After thinking about it for a while, I started to wonder. Why can’t “being kind and stuff” be enough? Here’s the thing; she is kind. But not like we think of it. She is kind in a way only an open and unguarded six year old can be kind. Alison has grace.
If I’ve learned one thing while battling terminal cancer, it is that grace is not a destination. It’s not an object. It’s not a noun. Instead, grace is a means “of travel.” Grace: a strategy for engaging the world. Grace is a “how,” not a “what.”
Grace is a choice we make before we ever pick up our iPhone or walk into a restaurant to have lunch with friends. Grace occurs in the quiet moments before we speak or act in the world. Alison knows that. She may not say it like I do, but she doesn’t need to. She’s already got it.
I spent last week visiting with my sister, brother, and mom in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This was also my first week on the new drug that I requested be added to my chemo regimen. That along with a few other drug changes had me feeling very nauseous 24/7. So, I returned feeling disappointed that I couldn’t spend much quality time with them. My wife reminded me that the doctors told us when our girls spent 64 days in the NICU that it would be like a roller coaster. We would have many ups and downs. Cancer is much the same. That roller coaster idea had me awake a lot last night. The reason is that last station for the NICU roller coaster was a triumphant walk out of the front door of the hospital. The last station for a person with incurable cancer is death. What I do each day the moment my feet hit the floor in the morning is a say a little prayer of thank you. I just say, “thank you for giving me one more day.”
I do think it is impossible to “live every moment to the fullest.” Even with a death sentence hanging over your head, you just naturally slip into moments of fear or despair. Instead of trying to live an unattainable cliché, I like to say that I am better at recognizing the important moments, and I live those to the fullest. Much like the earlier roller coaster analogy, I recognize when I am in an upward swing and I act to seize that for everything that it’s worth. Simple things like going to the mall with my wife on a day that I am feeling good is an example of making my days count.
Each of us has four or five critical moments in every day that we live. Maybe it’s a moment a child asks us a question. Perhaps it’s a moment among trees and songbirds just before we walk into work. It doesn’t matter. What matters is figuring out what those moments are, and living them with our fullest abilities. Another person’s life-course may turn on an offhanded comment we make. I encourage anyone to find those moments and shine. And don’t forget to “be kind and stuff.”
With Fierce Hope,
P.S. A huge thank you to everyone who purchased a fierce hope t-shirt and shared selfies on Facebook. It really lifted my spirits during a rough week. My sister Jen helped us out by extending the t-shirt campaign for those people who asked if they could still purchase one. Use this link if you’d still like to order. The last day to order is February 18th so that they will arrive in time for Colon Cancer Awareness day on March 6th. I’d love to see all of those selfies posted again on that day. Thank you so much for your continued support and love!